Week of 3/28/16 -4/3/16
Monday: Leftover Chicken with pears and apples
Tuesday: Scotch Broth with Avocado Toasts
Wednesday: Salmon with Asparagus and Twice-Cooked Potatoes
Thursday: Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad
Friday: Morcilla Restaurant
Saturday: Poulet Rôti avec pommes and poires et pommes paillason
Sunday: Brunch at Hilda and Tim’s
Pasta with Hilda’s herbs, tomatoes and bacon
The beauty of being omnivorous is that you can eat at Justin Severinos’ magnificent Morcilla and cook up some pasta with Hilda’s herbs and have a martini and have some fried manchego with honey and paprika and . . . but I am getting ahead of myself*
*Occasionally, I run into myself. I don’t know if this happens to you, but if it does, the solution is to slow down. You can meditate, if you like – I just sip some Scotch. Eventually I fall asleep and when I wake, I am back in sync. Note: therapists don’t want you to know about this remedy – distillers do.
Billy and Barbara took me to a great restaurant last Friday, April 1st – no fooling. Some restaurants serve great food but are stuffy – diners speak in whispers – waiters and waitresses condescend, and the wine stewards should be garroted. Some restaurants (usually joints) are fun but serve mediocre food. Morcilla is one of those places that are fun because of the food and the waiters.
This is Justin Severino’s second restaurant in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. You can read about his first and why you should haul yourself over there by clicking on the “Restaurants” tab above and scrolling down to the 9th review. Severino’s restaurant, Cure, was mentioned in their ’36 Hours in Pittsburgh.’ He has had recipes featured in the WSJ’s Weekend edition. (Cook his Torta Española and you will want to send him a Thank-You note).
Morcilla was designed to mimic a Spanish Tapas bar but to provide the comfort (chairs and tables) as well as the more substantial food of a restaurant. The space (see above) is a handsome blend of wood, brick and metal and very welcoming – the traditional front of the house Pittsburgh bar is on your left when you walk in, but the cured hams hanging from a ceiling rack are not a typical Pittsburgh fixture. The help are bright, young folks who care about food but who know the Pittsburgh crowd and how deadly any hint of preciosity would be. You should get there as soon as you can get a reservation.
We shared a bunch of plates but just a fraction of the menu. Here are some items we enjoyed:
From the ‘Pintxos’ (tapas – literally ‘thorns’ since in Spain many tapas items are served on toothpicks): Oysters Escabeche – raw oysters with a spectacular pickled dressing), Chistorra – little pieces of chorizo (cured in-house) with potato and some dressing. From the ‘Montaditos’ (small, open-faced sandwiches or flatbreads): Matrimonio (anchovies, boquerones and tomato conserva), Oxtail with caramelized onions and Mahón, and a platter of lamb meatballs served with a yogurt aioli. We are going back to try at least 3,226 other dishes.
So, what about this pasta with Hilda’s herbs?
On Sunday, after Mass, the Slavishes invited us for an impromptu brunch and, before we left, Hilda cut some sprigs of rosemary and thyme from one of her planters. We had some pasta, three slices of bacon and some tomatoes in the larder (pictured below) and no desire to drive to the market – but we also had Hilda’s herbs. The best dinners seem to come from just such a fortuitous conjunction of ingredients, left-overs, tag-ends and gifts. The recipe for the pasta we assembled is below and below that is an ‘Extra’ about a great way to cook potatoes* that has taken us by storm.
*Bill Fettes, our brother-in-law, once gave us the following recipe for a 7 course Irish dinner: Boil Potatoes, Take 6 pack of beer from the refrigerator.
PASTA WITH HILDA’S HERBS
Serves: 2 (Easily doubles)
Timing: 30 minutes – 20 minutes if you leave out the bacon
Pasta (1/2 lb. for 2)
Tomatoes (About 1 and ½ lbs.) – we had about 1 lb. of Campari which I cored, seeded and chopped and I added about ½ lb. of cherry tomatoes quartered. Alternatives – Plum or Roma tomatoes would be perfect – or use anything from your garden
Bacon – 3/6 slices cut into lardons (we used 3 slices because we have thick-cut bacon – if you have packaged, thin stuff, use more) – Skip the bacon if you are a cult member or a vegetarian (similar species, in my opinion)
Minced garlic (we used a small clove, but if you love garlic use more to get a deeper flavor)
Sprig of rosemary plus a good teaspoon finely chopped
Couple of sprigs of thyme
Parsley – Couple TBS chopped plus more for garnish
Alternatives: Fresh oregano or dried rosemary, thyme and oregano or try something different
Salt and Pepper
Small pinch of red pepper flakes (plus more for serving me)
Core, seed and chop tomatoes*
Put a large pot of water on a back burner (you’ll need this for the pasta)
Cook bacon until crisp – I add a film of canola oil to a skillet and cook over medium heat (turning it down if I’m getting smoke) – remove, drain on paper towel and pour off the bacon grease.
In the meantime, put the skillet over medium-high and add 1 Tablespoon + of olive oil (enough to film the pan). Add the garlic, rosemary and red pepper and cook about 30 seconds (keep stirring, you don’t want the garlic to burn), then dump in the tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down. Add the rosemary and thyme and salt and pepper at this point. Now fire up the pot of water to a boil.
Turn down the temperature of the skillet if things begin to burn – but you do need heat to break down the tomatoes. After 8-10 minutes, when the tomatoes have broken down, take off the flame and stir in the parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed and some sugar if the sauce is too acidic.
Meanwhile salt the boiling water and cook the pasta until just shy of al dente. Reheat the sauce and, using tongs, transfer the pasta to the saucepan to finish cooking for 2 minutes or so, using the tongs to mix it thoroughly with the sauce.
Plate, sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve with grated parmigiana and the bacon bits on the side. (Try to befriend Hilda and she may give you some herbs.)
*Why core and seed the tomatoes? You do not want the seeds in your sauce and the core is usually fibrous – you just want the tomato flesh. How could you have reached adulthood without knowing this? Note: You seed by scooping the seed sacs out with your fingers – aim the tomato down into the sink or a bowl or you will end up looking like a horror film villain.
Look, the chicken with apples and pears we cooked on Saturday was also great, but you can figure that out on your own. Here is a recipe from Jacques Pépin that bears a resemblance to hash browns in the sense that Ruth Bader Ginsberg bears a resemblance to Charlize Theron.
Pommes Pailasson (“Doormat Potatoes”)
– Jacques Pépin (Essential Pépin)
Time: 35 minutes, including prep
3 Idaho (baking or russet) potatoes – about 1 and ½ pounds
4 Scallions, trimmed and minced (use some of the green) for about ½ Cup
2 Tablespoons corn oil
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel the potatoes and grate them on the large holes of a box grater (or
use a food processor with that attachment). Squeeze the potatoes over
a bowl or the sink to remove some of the liquid. (You can keep them in
water and then squeeze again before you put them in the pan).
Mince the scallions
Heat the oil and butter in a 10-12 inch non-stick skillet until hot. Add the potatoes, scallions, salt and pepper and sauté fror 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and mixing with your hands. You want to distribute the butter and oil throughout the mixture.
Now press on the mixture with the back of a spoon to compact it, cover and reduce heat and cook gently for about 12 minutes.
Flip the mixture over and cook it for 10 minutes more. (If you are not confident of your flipping skills, just invert the pan over a plate or platter and then slide the potatoes back into the pan.)
To serve, plate and cut the potatoes into wedges.
2 thoughts on “Severino or Pasta with Hilda’s Herbs?”
Great post, Bill! Hilda’s herbs are simply the best and transform a simple pasta to so much more! Glad you had a nice birthday dinner and I am looking forward to checking out Morcilla sometime soon
Another great and interesting account of a week of food, illustrative of one of life’s simpler but often overlooked points: eating is living, living is eating (or something like that).